Peril Invites Rescue: An Evolutionary Perspective

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The legal doctrine usually entitled “peril invites rescue” or “danger invites rescue” relates to the rights of injured rescuers under the common law. This rescue doctrine is rather straightforward. Under the common law, a person who suffers injuries during a rescue attempt has a direct cause of action in negligence against any tortfeasor who, through her wrongful conduct, put another person or property at imminent risk.

Similarly, an injured rescuer has a tort claim against any rescuee who, through her own negligent actions, put herself at risk. Recovery can be obtained even if the rescue attempt is unsuccessful. While rescue efforts are normally not required of bystanders, the rescuer is protected if she undertakes one, whether by spontaneous or deliberate action, even when the rescuee is contributorily negligent. The tortfeasor is said to have a duty of care with respect to rescuers because rescue attempts are foreseeable.

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